Wednesday, 23 December 2015


In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, later generations incorporate the achievements of their predecessors. Planetary Engineers receive mind training from skilled psychotechnicians and therefore, like the title character of "The Sensitive Man," can exercise some control over involuntary functions. Also, one Engineer is even a clone of the "superman," Rostomily, like the earlier Un-men. Nomads preserve knowledge of such achievements through the subsequent Dark Ages. Eventually, Galactic men exercise much greater psychophysical powers. One Engineer, regarding science as a war of men against nature, reflects that nature is too strong and can easily shrug aside humanity - but the Galactics, by applying their artificially mutated brains, control cosmic forces, expending very little energy.

The omniscient narrator of The Snows Of Ganymede ascribes the downfall of the Psychotechnic Institute to "Hubris, Nemesis, Ate." (p. 47) Pride, retribution and ruin form a perfect Hegelian triad. A few pages later, an Engineer displays the hubris of Frankenstein by casually explaining how scientists have created microscopic life:

"'It was just a matter of reproducing and accelerating the chain of physiochemical reactions which led to the first life on Earth. Oparin had sketched that out as far back as 1930 or so.'" (p. 56)

We hardly notice this Frankensteinian achievement among the many other signs and wonders of Anderson's first future history.

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